on 25 September 2012
Bought the book on a review by Evan Davies in the FT. It is a comprehensive review of innovative and successful strategies adopted by companies all over the world. The author has spent years travelling and collecting the information, which adds up to quite a compelling view of the new future of manufacturing.
However, once the first excitement had worn off, I found I got a bit tired of so many descriptions of companies and their activities. There is a fair amount of discussion but I would have preferred a higher ratio of discussion to examples.
Also, the author's proposition could be summed up, crudely, as "lots of new technology, keep innovating or perish, and get the stuff made anywhere in the world where there are cheap, affordable skills". It wasn't in the book's remit, but I would have valued his consideration of how people are to be employed if much or most fabrication is automated, and jobs are simply moved around to suit commercial advantage.
on 5 December 2012
Don't be put off by the cover. This is a topical and engaging book. I'm a casual reader rather than an business expert. For me the book provided a great entry point to an area that I had never given much thought to - how the things around me get made - and also a background to the current economic policy debates that I read about in the papers.
The book explores what factories of the future might look like - what they might be producing, how manufacturers and their supply chains might be organised globally, the convergence of developed and developing nations, and the opportunities for more sustainable manufacturing.
The UK government is trying to re-balance the UK economy away from an over-dependence on financial services and this book provides insights into what a successful, growing and sustainable UK manufacturing sector might look like in 10 or 20 years time.
An example of an area that I hadn't really considered relates to trade (im)balances which you read about all the time in the popular press. The book looks at how these are estimated and, more importantly, what this actually means in a globally inter-connected world. The reality is, of course, far more complex than the headlines.
There is also a really interesting chapter looking at new technologies that are potentially on the verge of entering mainstream production and the far-reaching consequences that these could have. Abundant Titanium due to improved processing technology, plastic-based computer chips, the applications of nano-technology, and so forth.
on 7 May 2014
The author makes the case for a new industrial revolution, as the title would suggest, and it is plausible. The book is very readable however, I got the impression that the author had a huge pile of facts regarding different businesses around the world and created a book around them without leaving any of them out. Here's a fact…and here's another fact…oh, and then there's this fact…..
I just found it a little tedious after a while.
on 11 January 2016
A little repetitive - could have done with more severe editing. Now, of course, it's past its prime as it's essentially a compilation of journalism from the 2000-2010 period. However, it's a galloping overview that takes advantage of Marsh's unique position in having a myriad of contacts all round the world that he could draw on. As such it's a great overview of the state of play in manufacturing with much speculation over the future. With 2016 hindsight, it under-plays the potential of re-shoring and especially, the emerging 'maker movement' and its potential for closing the gap between micro-business innovation and some scale of production. You can hardly blame him for that though. For anyone interested in manufacturing developments it's a must-read.
on 15 December 2012
Review by the Cote d’Azur Men’s Book Group
Today we live in an electronic age that is revolutionary and exciting, and the future for global manufacturing has both enormous opportunities from new technologies, and, for Western nations, huge challenges from existing and newly industrialising countries such as China and India.
Financial Times journalist Peter Marsh covers a lot of ground with this book, starting with a good historical overview of the evolution of developments that have had a critical impact on the economy. There have been three key overlapping eras since the Industrial Revolution. The 'transport revolution', ca.1840-1890, included steam-driven railway locomotives and the iron- or steel-hulled ship. The 'science revolution', ca. 1860 - 1930, gave us the steam turbine, electric motor, and internal combustion engine, while a range of new industries arose based on new chemicals and materials. Later, the huge reduction in production costs of silicon-based electronic circuitry sparked the 'computer revolution' from ca. 1950 until 2000, continuing to drive down product and manufacturing costs, stimulating massive innovation in products, processes and user markets.
In his final chapter we are given an interesting table tracing 'general purpose technologies', from the domestication of plants around 9000 BCE, to present day nanotechnology, with the technologies indicated as being product-related, process-related or organisational in nature.
Peter Marsh is at his best in describing the course of manufacturing and product innovation via short 'caselets', using very diverse examples of businesses from around the world that have adopted novel ways of doing things to create new user benefits, and is very fond of adding charts, numbers and dates to add detail to his examples. We learn about the invention of float glass technology, and its crucial role in the creation of LCD'S for modern flat screen devices; and the remarkable, massive product variety of Essilor, the world leader in spectacle lenses.
The body of the book is taken up with examples of what has been changing in recent decades, for example the linking of value chains to a 'value web' across companies and borders; environmental concerns demanding changes in materials and location; flexible manufacturing leading from mass production to the possibility of mass customisation. The rise of China is treated at length, as opportunity and threat.
'Crowd collusion' is the term Marsh uses to elucidate the success of companies situated in close geographical clusters, such as in Switzerland for watches, Sheffield for steel-related products, and medical products in Memphis.
Looking ahead, robotics and nanotechnology are opening up immense opportunities for lowering production costs, improving quality, and creating new products. One of the most promising areas suggested for manufacturing is in health care, with the possibility of combining genetic engineering techniques with computer science, medical imaging and electrical engineering for diagnosis and treatment of disease.
"For the most talented and technically qualified people,” the author writes, “the new industrial revolution will bring huge opportunities…….no less than those that changed the world in the eighteenth century”. Unfortunately little else is written about the human, labour, employment or social aspects of manufacturing.
The last chapter, entitled 'The New Industrial Revolution' is a little disappointing in that it is hardly more than a repetition of material in the earlier chapters, with few real pointers to what might lie ahead, other than a continuation of current trends.
The book is well written, but one is left with the feeling that it is a collation of many (admittedly interesting) historical stories, but didn't meet its title by expressing much about future specific advances. However it is very readable, containing nuggets of great interest to the general reader.